Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 12th 2014 Contents MELBOURNE---One by one, Ser-
ena Williams is matching the feats
of tennis' greatest legends.
Her next challenge comes at the
Australian Open, which starts
tomorrow with Williams seeking
her 18th Grand Slam title --- an
accomplishment that would match
Martina Navratilova and Chris
"It would mean a lot to be on the
same level as such great players,"
Williams said in a pre-tournament
news conference Saturday, quickly
adding a dash of humility. "I still
have a lot of work to do. I obviously
want to reach that level, but I'm not
"Hopefully, I'll get there," she
The No 1-ranked, No 1-seeded
player is entering the new season
after a spectacular year. In 2013,
Williams won 78 of her 82 matches
including the French Open and the
US Open. She earned more than $12
million in prize money, a record for
At 32, an age where most profes-
sional players are in decline,
Williams is playing the best tennis
of her career, says Navratilova, who
predicts that Williams will win in
Melbourne and go on to eclipse Steffi
Graf's 22 major titles in the Open
"If she can stay healthy, there's
no doubt she can go into the 20s.
The sky is the limit," Navratilova
said earlier this week.
In terms of Grand Slam titles, no
woman playing professional tennis
today comes close. In a distant sec-
ond place is Williams' big sister,
Venus, who won seven major titles
during a career that is now waning
because of age, injuries and an
autoimmune disease that saps her
energy. Venus' last Grand Slam win
came at Wimbledon in 2008.
No 2 Maria Sharapova, a four-
time Grand Slam winner, is coming
back after playing just one post-
Wimbledon match in 2013 due to
hip and shoulder injuries.
She sat out the last two months
of the 2013 season and says she is
still nursing her shoulder with "pre-
cautionary" anti-inflammatories at
"I'm happy to be back playing a
Grand Slam," said Sharapova, who
tore her rotator cuff in two places
in 2008, requiring surgery that kept
her off the tour for nearly a year.
"I'm happy to get myself back in
form and really start well here."
The player who is considered the
greatest threat to Williams is No 2
Victoria Azarenka, the two-time
Australian Open defending cham-
pion. Williams has defeated Azaren-
ka in 14 of their 17 matches --- but
Azarenka has excelled more recently
in Melbourne where Serena has won
five titles but none since 2010.
Asked why she has stumbled in
Melbourne in recent years, Williams
half-joked: "I just wasn't able to
stay on two feet. Literally."
Last year, Williams tumbled to
the court in her first-round match
after turning her right ankle. She
was then upset in the quarterfinals
by Sloane Stephens.
"I've been doing a lot of exercises
for my ankles and trying to make
sure that they're pretty stabilized,"
Williams got a strong start to the
new season, with back-to-back wins
over Sharapova and Azarenka earlier
this month in Brisbane.
She beat Sharapova in the semi-
finals and overcame Azarenka in the
In Melbourne, Williams will only
get the chance to play one of them.
Azarenka and Sharapova are on the
opposite side of the draw from
Williams and could end up playing
each other in the semifinals.
Sharapova's first-round match is
against Bethanie Mattek-Sands on
Tuesday, when Azarenka faces
Johanna Larsson of Sweden.
Williams has 2011 US Open
champion Sam Stosur and two-time
Australian finalist Li Na in her half
of the draw.
She starts her Australian Open
campaign tomorrow against 153rd-
ranked Australian teenager Ashleigh
Barty, who was trying to look on
the bright side about the match.
"I'm just going to go out there
and enjoy it," said Barty, who is 17
and ranked 153rd. "Not every day
do you get the opportunity to play
the No. 1 player in the world and
one of the greatest champions of all
time. I'm really excited for the chal-
Barty is bound to have rowdy
home crowd support as she steps
onto center court against the world's
"Obviously they'll want Ashleigh
to win, (and want) her to do well,"
Williams said. "Under any other cir-
cumstances. I'd probably be rooting
for her as well." (AP)
January 12, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
Martin del Potro outclassed defending
champion Bernard Tomic 6-3, 6-1 yes-
terday in a 53-minute final of the Syd-
Del Potro finished the match with
his eighth ace and made only four
unforced errors in securing his 18th
career title and first in Sydney. He lost
only six points on his serve, and Tomic
appeared dispirited after being broken
to fall behind 4-1 in the second set.
"My forehand worked perfect, I made
a lot of winners, many aces, played
good slices," del Potro said.
Tomic was more succinct.
"I got killed," the 21-year-old Aus-
tralian said. "There was nothing I could
It's about to get more difficult for
Tomic. His next match is against top-
seeded Rafael Nadal in the first round
of the Australian Open. Del Potro will
also play his first-round match Tuesday
--- against a qualifier.
In Auckland, New Zealand, John Isner
had 23 aces in a match which had no
service breaks to beat Lu Yen-hsun of
Taiwan 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7) in the final of
the Heineken Open.
Isner, ranked No 14, won his eighth
career singles title and took the title in
New Zealand for the second time after
his victory in 2010.
The third-seeded Isner, playing with
a right ankle injury he picked up at the
Hopman Cup the previous week, took
a crucial minibreak to open the first
set tiebreaker. In the second tiebreaker,
he rallied from 3-0 down and closed
with an ace on his third championship
In the final of the Kooyong Classic
exhibition event, Japan's Kei Nishikori
joined his coach Michael Chang as a
tournament champion with a 6-4, 7-
5 win over Tomas Berdych.
Nishikori, seeded No. 16 at the Aus-
tralian Open, was watched in the stands
by Chang, a former French Open cham-
pion and a three-time winner at the
Melbourne venue in 1995-97.
In the WTA event at Hobart, Spanish
qualifier Garbine Muguruza defeated
Klara Zakapalova of the Czech Republic
6-4, 6-0 to claim her first singles title.
The 20-year-old Muguzura, who did
not drop a set from the qualifiers to
the final, joins 2012 champion Mona
Barthel as the only qualifiers to win
the Hobart event.
Muguruza, ranked 58th, beat sec-
ond-seeded and Wimbledon semifi-
nalist Kirsten Flipkens in the quarter-
finals, while Zakapalova defeated
top-seeded and former U.S. Open
champion Sam Stosur in the semis.
Serena seeks historic
18th major win in Oz
Serena Williams of the United States speaks during a press conference
ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia,
yesterday. AP PHOTO
Del Potro wins
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